Ayurveda is a medicinal system with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems—it was developed more than 3,000 years ago. The system of medicine is based on the believe that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Ayurveda is preventative; the goal is to promote good health rather than fight disease. However, certain treatments may be geared toward specific health problems. In the United States, Ayurvedic medicine is considered to be a form of complementary and alternative medicine.
The main Ayurveda texts include accounts of the transmission of medical knowledge from the Gods to sages. This information was then passed to human physicians. Ayurveda therapies have varied and evolved over more than two millennia and are typically based on complex herbal compounds, minerals, and metal substances. Ancient texts also taught certain surgical techniques, such as rhinoplasty, kidney stone extraction, sutures, and the extraction of foreign objects.
Those who practice Ayurveda believe every person is made of five basic elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. These combine in the human body to form three life forces, called doshas, which control how the body works: Vata dosha, Pitta dosha, and Kapha dosha. Individuals inherit a unique mix of these three doshas, though one of often stronger than the others. Each controls a different body function. Vata dosha, the most powerful, controls basic body functions, such as cell division. It also controls the mind, breathing, blood flow, heart function, and intestinal processes. Those who have Vata doshas as a main energy are allegedly more likely to develop conditions like anxiety, asthma, heart disease, skin problems, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Pitta dosha is said to control digestion, metabolism, and certain hormones linked to appetite. If this is an individual’s main life force, they will be more likely to develop conditions like Crohn’s disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, and infections. Finally, Kapha dosha is said to control muscle growth, body strength, stability, weight, and the immune system.
While the benefits of Ayurveda have very limited scientific support, the system appears to promote generally healthy lifestyles. If adopting this system is what a person needs to develop healthier eating and living habits, it is an excellent option for preventative action.